Could necrotizing fasciitis have been diagnosed sooner?
Defendant claims consult, reliance on MRI scan compliant with standard of care
A 57-year-old Tennessee man presented to an emergency room in 2006 with complaints of severe groin pain. Testing indicated a high white blood cell count, but a magnetic resonance imaging scan was negative for infection.
Two days later, a surgeon was called to consult. She reviewed the medical records, ruled out infection, and left for the weekend.
Four days later, the patient’s condition worsened and he was then diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis of his groin and penis. The surgeon was called in to perform an operation to excise the area, including removal of skin from the penis and removal of the scrotum with the testicles implanted in the upper thigh. The result of the infection and surgery was described as a horrendous and deforming injury.
The man sued the consulting surgeon and alleged she failed to make a timely diagnosis of the infection or perform a biopsy; rather, she relied on the MRI and ignored the clear clinical signs of infection. He argued that if the infection were caught earlier, an effective treatment would have prevented the subsequent injury. He also claimed the surgeon failed to communicate with other medical team members before leaving for the weekend. The man died a year after filing the lawsuit, and his estate pursued the case to trial.